NEWEST RELEASE LOOSE ENDS BLURB
Hot off her first mission as a Unit 28 contractor agent, Alex Thornton wants nothing more than to focus on building a life with Jabir al-Omri, her best friend and boyfriend of five months.
A secret chains Jabir, one with such dire consequences that seeking freedom from it will cost him dearly. He finds himself caught between honoring those he cares about and being completely truthful with Alex.
Hashim al-Hassan craves vengeance against the woman who deceived him ten years before. The target of his wrath? Alex.
When Alex and Jabir receive an assignment to find the murderers of a shipping executive, their investigation brings them to the attention of Hashim. He begins stalking her. The bodies pile up, and people disappear.
Now, with Alex squarely within Hashim’s crosshairs, Jabir yearns to tell her what he knows. Yet the truth may destroy both her and those she loves the most.
Interview with Alex Thornton and Jabir al-Omri
by Jennifer Haynie
- How did you two meet?
Alex: I love how-we-met stories. I literally first met Jabir when he was going through the training for Unit 28 agents. Only then, he was one of the nameless, faceless trainees who might not make it through, so I pretty much didn’t take him too seriously. We actually became friends when he became my partner in May 2009. I always laugh at him because he thought I was a guy since I go by the name of Alex rather than something else like Lexi or Allie (ick on both of those).
Jabir: I’ll add something else here. Shortly after we began working together, I got a call from my mom, who’d moved to Alexandria after she got the courage to leave what was an awful marriage and move to where I lived. We were sharing an apartment when one of my brothers and my father showed up and threatened to kill her. Alex went over there with me. Fortunately, things worked out for the better, but to have someone you just met face down a man who had violence on his mind sealed our friendship. I knew she had my back, and I’d definitely have hers.
- You’re both Christians. Tell me a little bit about when Christ became your Savior.
Jabir: I’ll go first on this one because mine is pretty definitive. I grew up in a Muslim household in Chicago. My father, who was a pathologist at one of the area hospitals, became radicalized during the 1990s. He betrothed my sister, who was only fifteen months younger than I, to be married to the son of a radical cleric. This happened when she was nine. Nine! My father and brothers betrayed both Yasmin and me, and he spirited her away before I could get her to safety. That’s when I transferred from where I’d been attending University in Chicago to the University of Arizona. I pretty much walked away from Islam and headed in the other direction. Bad move, I know, but I was so angry. Fortunately, I came around during spring of my sophomore year. I was shooting some hoops when this guy came in. We got to talking, and soon, he invited me to a Bible study. It took some doing, but I finally went. And the rest is history. Sorry. I know that’s a long answer, but it’s pretty complicated.
Alex: Mine’s not nearly as long. Honestly, I don’t think I remember a time when I didn’t know Christ. Mom and Dad made sure I grew up in the church. Sure, my faith has ebbed and flowed over the years, but I’ve always known Christ as my Savior. However, it didn’t truly become real to me until I hit college. So maybe I was relying on my parents’ faith until then.
- What has been the most difficult time in your life?
Alex: Probably for me, it would be nearly dying in April 2013. That was my last mission as a Unit 28 agent. Jabir and I were working with two newbies to record video for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms of a gun deal being made between a white supremacist and an official from the German embassy. The deal would be made at a restaurant in Washington, DC with the exchange happening later. Long story short, things went south pretty quickly. I spend three weeks in the hospital with very severe injuries. Then came what felt like an inquisition from a Congressional committee. After that, I got fired by the DHS secretary when he gave a televised press conference about the incident. And Jabir got sent away for a two-year mission. He couldn’t even tell me he was leaving. So in the span of three weeks, I nearly died, lost my job, lost my best friend, and pretty much lost my identity. So 2013 was a hard year.
Jabir: Which one do I choose? I don’t mean to be flip. I know I’ve been extraordinarily blessed, but I’ve had some really hard lows as well. What Alex described was so hard on a number of levels. Probably the hardest one, though, was when I found out that my sister, who by that point had been forced into marriage, was murdered in an honor killing. I’d barely been a believer a year by that point. Thank goodness for close, supportive friends.
- You two are obviously in a relationship. How did that happen?
Jabir: It took time.
Alex: Like four years of time.
Jabir: Seriously, though. I knew I loved her in 2012 and was going to tell her, except that she started dating another guy. Then 2013 happened, and I got sent away for two years. When I got back, she was so angry with me that she refused to speak to me. I got the point and stayed away. Then we reunited in Panama in 2017.
Alex: God is good. He worked to have us both ready at the right time. I think we both had some spiritual growing to do before we got back together.
- You both obviously moved to Weatherly. Alex, for you it was returning home. For you, Jabir, a new place. What’s been the biggest challenge?
Jabir: I’ll go first on this one. I grew up in an urban jungle, and though I’ve obviously been in the field a lot, I’m a city boy at heart. So for me, the biggest challenge is having it be so quiet. Hardly any noise save for the insects in the summer. The streets seem to roll up at nine at the latest. And, everyone seems to get into everyone else’s business.
Alex: Hah. It’s not that bad. For me, the biggest challenge in moving in 2013 was getting over the notion that I’d failed. But overall, it’s been a good move. It’s great to be with family. And people getting into other people’s business means a caring community, one I never truly saw when I lived in Alexandria.
- What’s your greatest fear?
Alex: Hmmm. That’s a good one. After I got back from Panama, I got really worried about my security, especially as I prepared to go back on a contract basis with Unit 28. Tiny and Otto came down, and Otto worked really hard at scrubbing me from the Internet. Problem is, word’s already out since I’m involved with Diana’s business. That’s been a concern, so I hope with removing my photo, that’ll at least cut down on questions. After all, Alex Thornton could be a guy if there’s no picture.
Jabir: I’ve got a lot of fears, some I don’t care to talk about. But I Hashim al-Hassan potentially has a bone to pick regarding Alex’s role in his capture. That’s why Tiny and I advised that Alex get a security system. Aside from that, I have no fear for my personal safety. I’ve faced down enough demons over the past few years that I’ve come to realize that if my ticket’s punched for a certain day, nothing will change that.
- What do you like to do for fun?
Jabir: Anything sports related. I’m getting ready to start a personal training business with a focus on training kids and young adults in ninja warrior skills. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have one go on American Ninja Warrior one day. But seriously, basketball, soccer. Anything but football and so long as I’m playing it. And yes, I enjoy cooking as well.
Alex: I have tons of things. Needlework. Time with the girls. Hunting. I love being outdoors. There’s lots of things I enjoy. Probably too many things.
- If there’s one thing you would take away from your adventures in Panama, what would it be?
Alex: That’s a great question. It was such a tough time in some respects. But probably to trust God, that He has things under control because there will be times in our lives when things certainly seem out of control.
Jabir: Treasure things when they’re good. We had a good team down there. Then things went south in a hurry, and my world got turned upside down.
- What is your favorite activity to do together?
Jabir: Do you want to go first, Alex? No? Okay. I like simply being with Alex. It doesn’t matter what.
Alex: Even hunting in the middle of the night?
Jabir: Okay. Almost everything But seriously. It’s good to be reunited, and I’ll do almost anything with her. Cooking together is probably my favorite thing, though.
Alex: That’s because you stick me with all of the dirty pots and pans. But seriously. It’s good to have time to catch up. It seems as if we’ve been doing a ton of that lately.
- If you had words of wisdom for someone getting out of college and considering a career in your line of work, what would it be?
Alex: Consider the costs very carefully. The first year after training, I barely saw my family or friends. And it can cost you your soul—maybe even your life—if you’re not careful. Another thing is to lean into each other in terms of those in similar service.
Jabir: Agreed. No one can function as an island in this kind of work. I wish I’d learned that one year ago. I tried. It doesn’t work. I would agree with Alex. Neither of us are the same people we were when we were at our highs. We’ve had to go through lows, but another big thing I would say is that God is sovereign, and even when I’m scared, afraid for my life, or see no way out, He is there.
After being an avid reader of suspense fiction for most of her life, Jennifer Haynie began writing and publishing suspense novels in 2012. She has now written over five indie suspense novels. In her spare time, she works for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, enjoys working out, and loves traveling. She currently lives outside of Raleigh with her husband and their Basenji dogs.
OTHER BOOKS WITH ALEX THORNTON & JABIR AL-OMRI
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Also published on Medium.